There are cancer-fighting foods that can help you stay healthy. Eating foods packed with cancer-fighting nutrients and antioxidants can reduce your risk of developing cancer, and help conventional cancer treatments like radiation therapy. Inflammation is often the root cause of cancer, as inflammation can lead to the multiplying of abnormal cells that trigger the growth of cancerous tumors.
The key to fighting cancer with food involves consuming high amounts of healthy, whole foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can effectively ward off inflammation. Here are eight cancer-fighting foods that lower your risk for cancer.
Berries like blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are high in proanthocyanidin antioxidants that have the ability to repair damage from free radicals. Berries are also high in vitamin A and vitamin C, and offer anti-aging properties that lend to improved immunity and increased energy. Eat berries as a snack between meals, or add to cereal, yogurt, and smoothies.
2. Leafy greens
Leafy green vegetables like kale, romaine lettuce, and watercress offer countless cancer-fighting properties. Leafy greens are high in antioxidants that fight inflammation, as well as compounds called isothiocyanates that help detox your body on a cellular level. Leafy greens also contain unique antiviral and antibacterial properties that prevent the formation of tumors and kill off existing cancer cells.
3. Organic meats
Organic meats are often great sources of vitamin B12, which lends to good liver health. Having a healthy liver is vital for warding off cancer, since this organ is primarily responsible for removing toxins from your blood and digestive tract. Look for organic meats that come from free-range animals raised on certified organic land, and that have been supplied with organic feed.
4. Cruciferous veggies
Just like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are high in isothiocyanates that help prevent and fight cancer. Cruciferous veggies are also high in vitamin C, and two antioxidants known as sulforaphane and indole that repair the enzymes responsible for protecting your cells and DNA. Dip these vegetables into hummus for a snack, or add to soups, stews, and stir-fry meals.
5. Bright orange fruits and veggies
Sweet potatoes, squash, citrus fruits, and other fruits and veggies bright orange in color are packed with carotenoids — vitamin A derivatives that boost immune system function. Having a strong immune system allows your body to effectively defend itself against free radicals and toxins that would otherwise increase your cancer risk. Many of these bright orange foods are also high in fiber, which reduces the risk for gastrointestinal cancer.
6. Spices and herbs
Turmeric is the number one spice known to fight cancer by naturally reducing inflammation and shrinking tumors. Turmeric can be taken in the form of a nutritional supplement, or added to soups, rice, and egg dishes. Other spices and herbs effective at fighting cancer are ginger, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, and parsley.
Widely known as vegetables, mushrooms are actually healthy fungi loaded with compounds that seek and destroy abnormal cancer cells. The most powerful cancer-fighting mushrooms include reishi, maitake, and shiitake. Look for these mushrooms at specialty health food stores, or at international or Asian supermarkets.
8. Wild-caught fish
Fish such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, as well as symptoms of cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Omega-3s are linked to improved brain and nervous system health, and help preserve muscle mass — which is important for cancer patients temporarily weakened by their treatments. Stick to purchasing fish labeled “wild-caught,” since these fish offer the highest nutritional benefits.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on October 2, 2017